Crab Salad


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Crab salad is one of the best ways to enjoy crab meat. It’s super easy to make and a meal you’ll love for the summer season. All you need are crab meat (I’ve got options), crisp vegetables, fresh herbs, and a creamy lemon dressing that ties it all together.

A bowl of crab salad
Photo: Gayle McLeod

Crab salad from the deli always feels like a special treat. But I have a newfound love for this homemade version. It’s simple and classic, with ingredient tweaks that are minimal yet substantial. You’ll be surprised at what diced shallots and fresh chives can do to this salad!

And while I’m a big fan of shrimp salad, tuna salad, and salmon salad, this crab salad recipe holds its own on a holiday table. It’s one of those nostalgic side dishes always served for Christmas or even the 4th of July as a summer salad. So if you’re looking for a crave-worthy salad to bring to your next holiday party, this seafood salad is one you can make again and again.

Ingredients for crab salad on a table

Best Crab Salad Recipe Ingredients

Crab meat is fairly light in flavor, but you don’t want to overpower it too much. So, I’ve kept the sauce in this salad a bit more minimal with ingredients that will enhance its flavor. Here’s what you’ll need.

  • Crab Meat: You’ve got a few options here. There’s fresh crab meat, canned crab meat, and imitation crab meat. I love to cook crab legs for fresh crab meat. But to keep this salad simple and budget-friendly, imitation crab does the trick! Plus, it’s what is commonly used to make crab salad.
  • Vegetables: Diced celery and shallots give it that crisp texture with every bite. But you could also use red onions or green onions. 
  • Herbs: Parsley, chives, and fresh dill are the best options that pair well with crab. For this recipe, I’m using chives, but feel free to use fresh herbs you have on hand.
  • Creamy Dressing: A blend of mayonnaise, lemon juice, Dijon mustard, paprika, salt, and pepper is what makes this crab salad so delicious. You could even use old bay seasoning to kick it up a notch. And I highly recommend making mayo with this homemade mayonnaise recipe. It tastes a thousand times better and doesn’t include any funky ingredients that bottled versions often have.

Find the printable recipe with measurements below.

Different types of crab for crab salad

Types of Crab Meat for Crab Salad

  • Fresh Crab Meat: If you want to go the extra step for super fresh crab meat, cook and peel crab legs. It’s a bit more time-consuming, but I can show you how to cook crab legs — 3 ways in under 10 minutes!
  • Packaged/Canned Crab Meat: When buying packaged crab meat, you’ll notice claw crab meat and lump crab meat. Claw meat has a brownish tint to it and a more shredded texture. Lump meat has a much whiter color and meatier whole pieces since it comes from the crab’s body. If you go this route, lump crab meat would be the better choice for flavor and texture.
  • Imitation Crab (Surumi): If you’re new to imitation crab, it’s made from surimi — which is a paste that’s typically made from wild Alaskan pollock that’s been deboned, washed, and minced. It’s technically not real crab meat, but the texture resembles flakes of crab meat, and the flavor is much sweeter, which gives this crab salad an extra delicious touch.

How To Make Crab Salad

Make the dressing. Stir the mayonnaise, lemon juice, mustard, paprika, salt and pepper. I recommend making the dressing right away and not ahead of time. If you do, it will start to separate and not be as emulsified.

Sauce for crab salad in a bowl

Stir it all together. Add the crab, celery, and shallot to a large mixing bowl. Stir together with the dressing until everything is fully coated and well-mixed. Then, sprinkle the fresh herbs on top for the final touch!

Mixing crab salad in a glass bowl

Ways To Enjoy Crab Salad

  • Serve as an appetizer. Add the crab salad to a serving bowl and place it on a platter with crackers. Perfect for a scoopable and fresh appetizer!
  • Crab salad sandwich or wrap. Pile spoonfuls into any sandwich bread of your choice with some extra lettuce. For a low-carb option, enjoy this crab salad wrapped with butter-leaf lettuce or even served on a bed of lettuce.
  • Serve with summer vegetables. Think grilled corn on the cobroasted potatoes, or even creamy mashed potatoes! Whatever side dish you make for your summer dinner or cookout, this crab salad will be a tasty pairing. 

How Long Is Homemade Crab Salad Good For?

Fresh crab salad is best when it’s freshly mixed. But any leftovers will keep in the refrigerator in an airtight container for 3 to 4 days. This makes it an easy salad to meal prep for the week! Just don’t leave the salad at room temperature for long because the mayonnaise can spoil.

A bowl of crab salad next to crackers

Frequently Asked Questions

Is it safe to freeze this seafood salad? 

Since this is a mayonnaise-based salad, it’s best not to freeze crab salad. The mayonnaise will separate, and the texture of the crab salad won’t taste as fresh.

Is there a substitute for mayonnaise in crab salad?

You can also use yogurt or sour cream as the base for the dressing. And if you’re dairy-free, feel free to use dairy-free versions.

Is imitation crab gluten-free?

In the past, packaged imitation crab often contained gluten. But I searched many different brands of imitation crab and found that gluten was no longer included in the ingredient list. But always make sure to read your labels.

More Summer Salad Recipes

  • Watermelon Salad: Turn juicy watermelon chunks into this tasty salad with cucumber, feta, and mint!
  • Caprese Salad: This a non-negotiable if you love mozzarella and juicy tomatoes together.
  • Ultimate Chicken Salad: This chicken salad has a secret ingredient that’ll leave you wanting more.
  • Classic Potato Salad: A creamy potato salad that will give you nostalgic vibes.

I hope you enjoy this easy crab salad recipe for a refreshing side dish! If you make it, let me know how it turned out in the comment box below.

Crab salad in a bowl with a spoon

Classic Crab Salad

5 from 13 votes
Prep: 25 minutes
Total: 25 minutes
Servings: 4 servings
Author: Lisa Bryan


This crab salad is one of the best ways to enjoy crab meat. It's delicious, easy, and the perfect meal for lunch or any holiday! Watch the video below to see how I make it.



  • cup mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • ½ teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • ½ teaspoon paprika
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  • pinch of freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 pound crab meat (or imitation crab meat), roughly chopped
  • 2 ribs of celery, finely diced
  • 2 tablespoons finely diced shallot (or red onion)
  • 1 tablespoon roughly chopped fresh herbs (parsley, chives, or dill)


  • Make the dressing. To make the dressing, stir together the mayonnaise, lemon juice, mustard, paprika, salt and pepper. Set aside.
    Stirring crab salad dressing in a bowl
  • Stir it all together. Add the crab, celery and shallot to a large mixing bowl. Pour the dressing on top and stir it all together.
    Making crab salad in a bowl
  • Garnish. Sprinkle fresh herbs on top for garnish. Serve immediately or chill.
    A big bowl of crab salad

Lisa’s Tips

  • Although I bought my imitation crab in store, here is a similar imitation crab meat you can order as well!


Calories: 372kcal | Carbohydrates: 22g | Protein: 7g | Fat: 28g | Saturated Fat: 4g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 17g | Monounsaturated Fat: 6g | Trans Fat: 0.1g | Cholesterol: 28mg | Sodium: 1029mg | Potassium: 42mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 5g | Vitamin A: 190IU | Vitamin C: 2mg | Calcium: 8mg | Iron: 0.2mg
Course: Salad
Cuisine: American
Keyword: Crab Salad, Crab Salad Recipe
Did you make this recipe?Mention @downshiftology or tag #downshiftology!

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About the author

Lisa Bryan

Lisa is a bestselling cookbook author, recipe developer, and YouTuber (with over 2.5 million subscribers) living in sunny Southern California. She started Downshiftology in 2014, and is passionate about making healthy food with fresh, simple and seasonal ingredients.

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Recipe Rating


  1. I made this and absolutely love it!! The celery made it so crunchy. The dressing was so yummy. Had mine with crackers for lunch. ❤️❤️❤️5 stars

  2. Made this last week – it was so good. I added celery salad and subbed with avocado mayo! Delicious!! Ate this with vegetable crackers when I felt peckish throughout the week.5 stars

  3. This was so good! I had never tried crab salad before and was thrilled with the results of this salad. I kept going back for just one more bite. I will definitely be making this often.5 stars

  4. This recipe is SOOO GOOD! I made it last night. Hands down the absolute best crab salad I’ve ever had. I refrigerated it for about 30 minutes after assembly to get it crispy cold. Excellent. This one will be in my regular rotation. I used the imitation lump Krab, but next time real crab is on sale, this will be on thr list of recipes to make. Thanks!5 stars

    1. Wonderful! I’m so thrilled you loved it. And yes, it’s delicious either way – with imitation crab or lump crab meat. :)

    2. Delicious and simple! I love its versatility. I ran out of lemon juice so I used white wine vinegar instead and finely chopped red onions instead of the chives. Old Bay takes it up another notch too!5 stars

  5. I made this crab salad today. I don’t like celery, so I change it for cucumber. I must say that this is the best salad ever. So easy to made, so tasty. I should have prepared more than one serving!
    Thanks Lisa for this recipe.

    Hice esta ensalada de cangrejo hoy. No me gusta el apio así que lo cambié por pepino. Tengo que decir que es la mejor ensalada. Muy fácil de hacer y muy sabrosa. ¡Debería haber preparado más de una ración!
    Gracias Lisa por esta receta.5 stars

  6. I don’t see anything on your Amazon link for the imitation crab. Love all your recipes! I’m a GF girl too, and it’s fun to see what options you come up with next!

    1. Thanks for the catch on the link – I just fixed it! And glad you’re enjoying all my recipes as well. :)

  7. Lisa, that is so fascinating about imitation crab! I had NO idea lol I’m excited to make this recipe again using that so my mom can enjoy it too (she can’t have crab). Another winning recipe!5 stars

  8. Delicious! Perfect for a summer day when you don’t want to put on the oven. Nice blend of flavours. Paprika adds a very slightly kick which pulls it all together. Will definitely make it again. Thanks Lisa!5 stars

    1. That sounds delicious, Catherine! It’s almost like adding tarragon into my chicken salad recipe :)

  9. Dear Lisa, my daughter put me on to your recipes and I think they are just fantastic. I live in Jamaica and love cooking and entertaining. You’re my go chef when I’m looking for delicious, easy to prepare and great looking recipes. For savoury dishes or salads I always add Scotch Bonnet pepper. A special J’can pepper with an amazing flavour! Keep those recipes coming I’m spreading the word to my friends about your recipes. Thanks👍🏾

    1. Thanks for your kind words, Maxan! Glad you discovered Downshiftology recipes and continue to enjoy them in your kitchen.

      1. Another really great seafood salad recipe! I noticed this base is a little different than the shrimp salad (mainly a lack of dill in this one). If you were to make a shrimp and crab salad, which base would you recommend? The one used with the shrimp salad recipe, or this crab salad recipe? I do love dill, but haven’t tried it with crab, so not sure how those flavors would mingle. Thanks and love your book too…so many great recipes.

      2. I personally love the way this crab salad is, but you could also try it with the base from the shrimp salad!